Risk & Reputation

RiskRep Radar: The Politicization of Return to Office

Stagwell’s Risk and Reputation Unit

Welcome to the RiskRep Radar, an every-other-week newsletter from Stagwell’s Risk and Reputation Unit on what companies and business leaders need to know about the intersection of business and politics.

During COVID, businesses innovated and listened in warp speed. Leaders today need to do so again to create the next chapter of employee engagement and communications, while addressing diverging demographics and values about the future of work.

A Difference in Values and Diverging Demographics Are Causing WFH Culture War

Four years into the work-from-home experiment, the culture war is in full swing. Where you work has become a partisan issue.

Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say remote work is good for employee wellbeing (+13 percentage points), company bottom lines (+15 percentage points) and career advancement (+16 percentage points).

Republicans are more likely to say that it’s frustrating to hear complaints about in-person work when so many frontline workers do it daily (+9 percentage points); and that work has traditionally been “in-person” and that’s how it should be (+10 percentage points).

WFH is also a battle of generations. Millennials, along with Gen Z, are leading the WFH narrative and believe they have leverage over employers. In fact, 71% of Millennials believe they could readily seek out a job with higher pay. At the same time, Gen Z has a steep learning curve that WFH is not helping: 82% of managers say new Gen Z hires’ soft skills need more development.

What the Future of Work Looks Like Now That Everything’s Politicized

Americans increasingly care more about quality of life than simply climbing the corporate ladder. Employees’ top 2 priorities are to “build financial stability so I can pursue what I care more about” (37%) and to “establish a better work life balance” (35%).

Younger workers also believe businesses have broken promises made to them during COVID. That includes 67% of Millennials and 54% of workers overall who say they were promised better work-life balance that never happened. And it’s not just young people who prioritize “work to live” versus “live to work.” Of all American workers, 78% say they would be more loyal to a company that gave employees the freedom to choose where they work from.

What Business Leaders Should Do

To start, business leaders need to modernize employee communications and engagement. In most companies, more than 70% of employees want clearer views of company strategy. Half of employees want more focus on operational changes and organizational goals rather than macro news and generic business updates. In short, employees want more context.

In addition:

Explore the full presentation on the politicization of return to office here.

Mark Your Calendar: April Webinar on Cybersecurity

Our next 30-minute, free risk-and-reputation webinar is at noon ET Thursday, April 18. Together with Stagwell’s communications firm Allison, we will focus on how business leaders can build and protect reputations in the era of cyberwarfare and misinformation. To RSVP, email Alexis Williams.

ICYMI: Risk and Reputation Unit in the News



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